Once upon a time…
…a reader raced back to Caitlin Crews’ Harlequin Presents / Mills & Boon Modern because she craved a strong Presents’ voice.
Luckily for her, this one fell into her lap via NetGalley / Mills & Boon Insiders. And if she’d known this was a fairytale Presents, and the one with the big bad wolf, then let me tell you she’d have been walking through the deep, dark woods all the sooner….
My first impression of the heroine was that Lauren is strongly characterised and her voice and personality really shine through.
It’s impossible not to enter the story in her unsensible shoes. That’s even before I discovered the fairytale element—I’d also, unknowingly, been craving—from the heroine walking through a Hungarian forest alone and how my imagination was conjuring up wolves when the writer had given them nary a mention.
Hero first impression promises different, promises intelligence, promises bad boy.
I loved the sense of place and how the setting isn’t a generic, tick-list rich-man’s world. Loved the foreboding and anticipation of the first meet and discussion of fairytales.
Loved the relationship intensity of the book’s first half condensed over a few days.
I so wanted this to be a five-star read, and didn’t want to fall out of love with the heroine; but there were times reader when I really wanted her to think about how the hero was feeling. At the same time, understanding why she enthusiastically embraces her boss’s orders. I hated how she assumes she has to teach Dominik how to navigate a formal table setting, and hoped it would come back to bite her.
The motivation for the marriage doesn’t come from either character and denies them some agency. But Dominik uses the situation to his advantage whilst at the same time not to his advantage. The transaction he stipulates, and she agrees to, felt a bit...off, but that’s not the only motivator and it’s a reason to give both characters what they want….
The bits that gave me pause do have that dark fairytale vibe and he is the wolf after all.
Dominik humiliates Lauren here and I didn’t like it whatever their true motivations, and that she probably deserved it.
Beware keeping a wolf on a leash, all the better to bite you.
So they each have flawed/unheroic moments where I fell a little out of love with both of them, but never quite stayed that way. One minute I was feeling slightly disconnected from Lauren and the next I was crying for her!
The Black Moment is emotional and the Happily Ever After put a smile back on my face. I was wary that the epilogue takes place 12 years later, but I needn’t have been, it’s absolutely gorgeous.
Because it’s Caitlin’s voice, because red riding hood, because wolves, because I got the San Giacamo estate in the epilogue and the epilogue is fairytale-worthy, because it’s a devour-in-one-sitting read and mostly because this feels like it’s written just for me and is most definitely a keeper:
Five fairytale Presents stars